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Sounds of the Sandown

Disco memories in time and space

The Sandown Park Hotel was one of a handful of live music venues the ‘70s survived but in the 1980s, Doug Walsh’s disco rocked the cash bar.

Raised mostly at the Sandown where his mother worked, Gisborne man Jason Walters grew up with that sound.

About two years ago, he began to play with the idea of recreating those disco nights in a special event with Walsh at the deck. Walters’ brainchild, Sounds of the Sandown, will relive those nights, not at the Elgin venue but at Smash Palace.

“I’ve been procrastinating over it for a couple of years,” says Walters.

“I’ve been trying to get Doug involved. He is the iconic DJ of the time. I was trying to arrange it as an anniversary event but it didn’t work out. So I phoned Doug and said ‘use your birthday this month as an excuse’.”

They sat down and went through a tonne of songs, says Walsh.

“Everyone has Spotify now,” says Walters.

“They stream the generic songs. There are songs Doug played that were iconic. Songs you wouldn’t have heard for 30 years won’t be on Spotify. They trigger memories in time and space.”

'All the disco sounds I used to play bring back memories'

“All the disco sounds I used to play bring back memories,” says Walsh.

“You could see all the different lights in the glass dance floor. (Sandown owner) Pete Gardner got it made. He also got a bubble machine and moonflower lights.”

Moonflower lights project a multi-pattern of light that include colour changes, strobe and pattern rotation onto the dance floor.

That era was cool, says Walters.

“A lot of people remember it. It’s about time that age group relives its youth. And if I’m going to do it, it has to be done properly.”

Doing it properly entails a road trip to Auckland to pick up a glass dance floor with lights in. He already has the original moonflower lights Walsh used for his disco nights.

There will also be visuals used at those nights.

“Doug used to play a compilation of crash scenes on the big screen. I’ve got the original VHS tapes he found in his shed and I’ve converted them into digital and put them on a memory stick.

“The footage still has lines going across it and it occasionally goes black and white. I like to do things properly. When you revisit things, I like to have those triggers. That’s why I’ve gone a bit silly on it.”

Sounds of the Sandown, Smash Palace, Saturday, July 18, 9pm. $10 at the door.

DISCO DEN: “The exotic effect of the towers on the Sandown Park Hotel is emphasised here by a repeat tower at the hotel frontage,” reported Gisborne Photo News in 1971. “The sharp, modern lines of the new building are softened by the stately trees.” By the 1980s, the sharp, modern lines of the interior had been softened by the big beats of Doug Walsh’s disco which is to be recreated at Smash Palace this month. Picture by Gisborne Photo News 208, 1971